FORMULA 1 UNITED STATES GRAND PRIX PREVIEW
Foreword from Renault Sport Racing Managing Director, Cyril Abiteboul
Austin is the seventeenth race on the 2017 calendar and the first of three races in the Americas as we concentrate on reaching our objective and finishing the season on a bright note.
I want to start by mentioning Carlos’ arrival to the team. We would like to thank Jolyon for his efforts with the Renault Sport team over the last two seasons. He has worked extremely hard to help the team and we have always appreciated his professionalism and loyalty. We wish him the very best for his future.
We welcome Carlos to the team ready for the US Grand Prix and we are looking forward to working with him. His arrival is important for the remainder of this season, and also for our 2018 season preparations. It gives us an advantage to use these final four races with Carlos in the car as a transitional period and get him up to speed with the car and the team.
The US Grand Prix is an important race for us, as we remain in the fight for fifth place in the Constructors’ standings. We are hugely disappointed to go back-to-back races without scoring a point, which has benefitted our rival teams. Our strategy with both cars on Sunday in Japan put us into a good position, but a flap pivot bracket failed on the rear wing of Nico’s car and forced him out. We are missing out on points due to reliability and it’s essential that we have an error-free weekend in Austin. We must not let anything go and we head into the final four races with a different dynamic. The car will benefit from upgrades and it’s therefore essential we score points.
Again, like in Malaysia, it was positive to see Red Bull on the podium once more in Japan. This demonstrates the Renault engine is working well on race day and is getting closer to the top step once again.
Formula 1 will join together with the Susan G. Komen organisation over the weekend in Austin to promote awareness for breast cancer. With the US Grand Prix coinciding with Breast Cancer Awareness Month, we will be wearing the colour pink with pride. This will include staff members at the track wearing pink APL trainers, as well as both cars designed with some special, pink features.
Ready to rock
Technical Director Nick Chester discusses the challenges of Austin as the season heads into the final furlong.
What are your thoughts on the Circuit of the Americas?
It’s an exciting track with a real mixture of corners. The first sector is quite high speed except for the uphill hairpin of turn one. After that, it’s right, left, right through the S-like bends at high speed. Then you’ve got a decent back straight and sector three has some low speed sections which will be hard on the rear tyres. It’s a real blend of interesting corners which means it’s hard to get a good balance all the way around. We have a fairly decent knowledge of the track and a good understanding of the varying temperatures throughout the day which again affect car balance.
Do we have any bodywork updates for Austin?
We will have some bodywork updates to the bargeboards and diffuser, as well as updated drum flicks. We’re still bringing updates to the R.S.17 whenever we can.
How do you reflect on Suzuka?
Firstly, it was a shame not to send Jolyon off on a bright note and we wish him all the best with his future endeavours. It’s disappointing to not bring points home but there are some strong positives from the weekend. Both cars had good starts, pace in clear air was competitive and tyre wear and degradation were well under control. The strategy choice was good and we would have had a comfortable eighth place with a chance at the Force Indias without the excursion and flap pivot bracket failure. These things can happen and we will be doing our best to make sure it doesn’t happen again.
Nico Hülkenberg is aiming to return to the top ten following the frustrating Asian triple-header which left him without points.
What do you like about Austin?
Austin is a cool town and a great place to be, I really like going to Texas. I love the track a lot and, out of all the modern tracks built in the last few years, this is a standout. The design is outstanding with a lot of cool corner combinations which flow really well. Sector one reminds me of Silverstone as it’s very quick and flowing. That’s what us drivers are after and it puts a big smile on our faces! Finding a good balance is important because, if you don’t, it will mean you will struggle. Austin is high on brake wear and fuel consumption, so it’s quite demanding in that regard, but nevertheless one of the really fun race weekends.
What are your thoughts from Suzuka?
It was a very tricky weekend. The race was going well, we were on the harder tyre doing a long first stint, but I made my life a bit harder by running wide in the second Degner. I pitted late and came out behind Massa and the two Haas cars. I had DRS open and the wing didn’t close; it wasn’t reparable and it ended our race. I would have had a good chance to go through those guys ahead and into eighth. That’s racing, though, things like this happen, but we move on and focus on Austin where want some points again!
Are you excited to partner Carlos?
I’m looking forward to working with Carlos. We need to finish off the season well together to help the team in the Constructors’ standings. I’ll be doing everything I can to help him hit the ground running with the team, but he is a very capable driver with a bright future. He has shown what he can do in Formula 1 and we’ll be aiming for a positive start to our partnership in Austin.
The First Chapter
Carlos Sainz arrives at the team with a wealth of knowledge and success in Renault machinery throughout his career. And the 23-year-old is excited for his first outing in the R.S.17 around one of his favourite Formula 1 circuits.
How are you looking forward to working with the team?
I’m very excited to joining the team and I hope to hit the ground running. We have some hard work ahead of us going into Austin with lots of things to learn and many people to meet. I’m going to give everything to be on the pace as soon as possible even though I know it can take a bit of time to adapt, but I’m confident we can do it.
What are the main challenges that come with your arrival?
It’s key to have this immediate taste with Renault and get to know the people and the car. It’s a big challenge, but it motivates me. We have this last push for the season and I have to find where the limit of the car is, get used to the steering wheel, things like that. That’s the procedure and I will embrace the challenge. It’s good to see the people at Enstone putting the work in to get back to the top. They can be sure all the effort being put in is being matched on my side of things and I will be pushing flat out to help the team.
What do you make of Austin as a circuit?
It’s one of my favourite tracks and I had one of my best races in Formula 1 there last year, finishing sixth. I can go there with confidence as I know how to go fast in Austin. I just need that adaptation to the car and the engineers. The first sector is special, it’s one of these modern tracks which is well designed, very fast with quick changes of direction and high G-forces. I love these sort of tracks and it’s a good opportunity for me to test the limit of the R.S.17.
Are you looking forward to pairing up with Nico?
We are very close together in the championship, but we haven’t had too many on-track battles. I’m really looking forward to working with Nico. I think he is a great driver and one of the most talented on the grid. He has lots of experience in Formula 1 so I will learn from him as soon as I can. Hopefully we can both help the team move further up in the championship before the end of the season.
Aitken misses out on GP3 title
Renault Sport Academy Driver Jack Aitken missed out on winning the GP3 Series championship following a frustrating outing in the penultimate round in Jerez last weekend (6-8 October).
Despite taking a podium in the opening race in Spain, Jack’s team-mate George Russell clinched the title with a round to spare.
In race one, Jack made a solid start from second on the grid, before compatriot Russell barged his way through at turn two leaving Jack to battle hard to keep his podium spot.
Race two was frustrating for the 22-year-old from 6th on the reverse grid. Russell again made a pass which bumped Jack down to seventh place.
Jack Aitken: “I’m gutted to have had the weekend we did especially after starting so strongly in practice and nearly taking pole position in qualifying. There are positives to take forward and lots of things have been learned. We have one more round to go in Abu Dhabi and I’ll be going for a pair of wins as always.”
Podiums for Rowland and Latifi in Jerez
Renault Sport Formula One Team Development Driver Oliver Rowland and Test Driver Nicholas Latifi took three podiums between them in the penultimate round of the Formula 2 Championship in Jerez last weekend (6-8 October).
Oliver fought his way from fourth on the grid to take second place in a thrilling Feature race. And Nicholas looked set to join Oliver on the podium after a brilliant performance from ninth on the grid, only for a pair of lapped cars to halt his charge on the last lap forcing him to settle for fourth.
In the Sprint, Oliver finished third with Nicholas just ahead of him in second as the Canadian secured an eighth podium of the season.
Oliver Rowland: “It was a pleasing weekend with a brace of podiums. The team have done a great job with a strong weekend and we are still in the mix for the Teams’ Championship. Well done to Charles [Leclerc] on the championship win: he’s done a fantastic job all season.”
Nicholas Latifi: “Overall, last weekend was decent with a big haul of points, but I can’t help but feel a little disappointed as I knew there was a possibility for better results. Race one was a bit unfortunate as the late race safety car really benefited the strategy I chose and I knew the race was mine to win at that point, but two backmarkers a lap down decided to get involved in the fight and completely ruined my chance at victory. Then in race two I made a decent start from fifth and ran most of the race in second, eventually finishing there. I was happy to be back on the podium and I want to finish the season well in Abu Dhabi.”
The Circuit of the Americas was introduced to the Formula 1 calendar in 2012 and proved an instant hit with the drivers. A blend of high-speed, fast changes of direction combined with slower, tighter and technical bits makes it a real test for both car and driver. An uphill hairpin at turn one will be an impressive sight come race day as 20 cars will dice for position.
T1: The run from pole is 500m as the track goes steeply uphill, with the turn-in point for the corner at the crest. There is around 40m in height difference from the end of the straight to the apex of Turn 1. The track is very wide here which allows the drivers to take different lines for overtaking.
T3: The start of the Esses. Turn 3 is flat in 7th gear, then Turns 4-6 are a series of high speed right-left-right bends. High downforce is required to go fast through this section.
T8/9: There is a tricky kerb to negotiate at the apex of Turn 9 as the cars accelerate out of the 130kph Turn 8. A good exit is important to stay within DRS range of cars ahead in the race.
T11: Turn 11 is a slow, second gear corner that leads on to the longest straight on the circuit. A good exit is important to either help overtaking or avoid being overtaken.
T12: Turn 12 comes after the 1km straight. Hard braking from 330kph is the best overtaking opportunity on the circuit.
T13-16: A series of low speed corners that have seen plenty of side-by-side racing in previous years.
T17/18: Front wing levels are tailored to counter understeer in this continuous double apex. These corners will be almost flat out with this year’s cars.
T19: A short, medium/high speed corner where it is easy to run wide on the exit.
T20: The final corner that leads on to the start/finish straight, which has the second DRS activation zone of the lap.
Power Unit Notes:
- Just under 60% of the lap is taken at wide open throttle, rising to over 60% in qualifying. The average speed will be a touch over 200kph with top speed peaking at over 320kph.
- Since gradient changes a lot over one lap, engine speeds and turbo rotation vary constantly, and settings must be constantly adjusted to give optimal performance.
- After the first corner the driver goes back up through the gears to reach seventh for turns 2, 3 and 4, which are taken flat out with an average speed of 270kph. Similar to Maggots and Becketts at Silverstone and the Esses at Suzuka, the driver needs to be precise on the throttle and carry the speed all the way through rather than brake and accelerate. The power unit needs to be correspondingly smooth throughout the turns, delivering constant levels of torque.
- The low ambient humidity of the Texan grasslands has a big effect on the power units. The air will contain more oxygen and the ICE will generate more power, but the aridity is very taxing on the internals. We will watch ignition timing very closely.
- Similar to Abu Dhabi, the longest straight is not the pit straight. In Austin it is the burst between turns 11 and 12, which is 1,016m. The car will be at full throttle for almost 12secs. It will also spend over two seconds at maximum velocity at the end of the straight. The driver will brake heavily at the end of the straight for the hairpin so rear-end stability and stability under braking will be crucial.
Tyres: Dallas Cowboys
Soft – Tyron Smith – Sturdy, durable and will go the distance.
Supersoft – Cole Beasley – the receiver, reasonably rapid and capable of some magic moments.
Ultrasoft – Dez Bryant – the quickest on the roster, has that fast burst of pace when needed and will always be reliable.
16m – Texas’s cattle population is estimated to be 16m.
40 – If it was a country, Texas would be ranked the 40th biggest in the world.
254 – Number of counties in Texas.